The Power of Soba and Ozoni

18 Oct

In the classic Japanese story, “Momotaro”, the boy hero sets out on his quest with a type of “special power”: Japan’s number one millet dumplings.  These millet dumplings serve as a type of “mythic” food that empowers Momotaro to conquer the ogres/devils awaiting him on a distant island.  The importance of these magical millet dumplings is emphasized by their repeated occurrence in multiple “Momotaro” accounts.
My two favorite “mythic” foods are soba (coincidentally) and ozoni (a flavored mochi soup), which are both consumed on New Year’s Day.  In the Japanese culture, soba is eaten to ensure long life—the length of the noodles symbolizes this.  And Ozoni is eaten at the beginning of the New Year because it supposedly provides “good luck” for the coming year.
Whether or not these “mythic” foods actually provide their “special powers” is another issue.  I enjoy eating these foods at the start of the New Year simply because they taste good.  Each year, my family spends New Years eve at my grandma’s house and undoubtedly, the best part about our New Years gathering is the soba.  My grandma has perfected her soba recipe and each year I try to consume one more bowl than the previous year (recently, this hasn’t gone so well).  I go home stuffed and tired, but I’m already looking forward to coming back to grandma’s house in less than 12 hours to eat multiple bowls of her equally delicious ozoni.  In short, eating my grandma’s soba and ozoni is one of the main reasons why I so look forward to my family’s traditional New Year celebrations.


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